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TX crash lawyerThe day before her 28th birthday, Leslie Valderrama was killed when the driver of the car she was in rear-ended an SUV on Ben White Boulevard, near Montopolis Drive. She was airlifted to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, but was pronounced deceased at approximately 3.30 AM on the morning of July 7. In this particular type of case, it can be difficult to determine who should be responsible for the family’s loss and suffering, but it is very possible that if the family of Ms. Valderrama brought suit for wrongful death, they would have a case that might prevail in court.

What Is Wrongful Death in Texas?

Texas law holds that someone can be found liable for wrongful death if the deceased’s passing was caused by their, or their agent’s, “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” While no amount of money can obviously eliminate the pain and loss you have suffered from your loved one’s passing, seeking monetary compensation can cushion the blow of losing their income and dealing with medical bills and funeral expenses. Prevailing at trial is difficult, but very far from impossible.

Some people may confuse wrongful death with murder, but there are important distinctions between the two. Murder is a criminal act, and a person must have had the deliberate intent to kill the person before they can be charged with their murder. Wrongful death is a civil tort, meaning that it is tried in civil court, with defendants who lose their cases usually being required to pay money damages, rather than in the criminal court, where jail time is the chosen punishment. If you have lost someone due to someone’s recklessness, a wrongful death suit may be appropriate; if you know that someone deliberately tried to kill your loved one, the police will likely charge them with murder.

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Posted on in Car Wrecks

TX injury lawyerAn early morning crash near the intersection of Hwy 290 and RM 1826 killed one person after an SUV failed to obey posted signs and turned left into traffic. The SUV was exiting a private drive, and while only right turns are permissible from that driveway, the SUV driver turned left, cutting across several lanes. Another driver, in a silver sedan, swerved to avoid a collision with the SUV but wound up being struck again. The sedan driver was killed at the scene, and while the SUV driver was cited (a misdemeanor), it is not implausible that the family of the sedan driver might want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, given that but for the SUV driver’s negligence, their loved one might still be alive.

Wrongful Death in Texas

Wrongful death is a cause of action under civil law (as opposed to criminal law; wrongful death is not a crime). In a wrongful death lawsuit, a deceased person’s loved ones are seeking to hold the defendant liable for their role in causing that person’s death and may receive money damages if they are successful. Texas law states that a person should be liable for damages if that person’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” caused an injury that led to the death of the deceased.

Wrongful death cases are decided based on a legal theory of negligence, meaning that to prevail, a plaintiff has to show three things. They must show that the defendant breached the duty to exercise reasonable care in their actions, they must show that they suffered harm because of that failure and that there was no other cause for their injuries - that the defendant’s conduct was the sole reason for them happening. This is not always easy to establish, especially in multi-car accidents, but it is far from impossible.

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TX injury lawyerOn the night of January 6, 2019, a speeding Dodge Charger T-boned a pickup as it was turning onto FM 78 in San Antonio. The driver of the pickup was killed on impact, going through a steel fence and into a ditch. The driver of the Charger was treated for minor injuries, along with his two passengers, and then taken into custody on a charge of manslaughter. Manslaughter is a criminal charge, but it is not implausible that the family of the pickup driver might bring suit against the driver of the Charger for wrongful death on top of that. Criminal charges lead to jail time for a defendant if found guilty, while a civil suit for wrongful death leads to a defendant being held liable for their actions, and required to pay monetary damages.

Side Impact Collisions Can Be Deadly

According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), side-impact collisions led to approximately 24 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths on the road in 2017. Some side-impact collisions can turn into rollovers, which are particularly deadly all on their own (only around 2 percent of all vehicle crashes in 2010 were of the rollover type, but rollovers accounted for almost 35 percent of all crash-related deaths that year), but even if your car does not roll, side impact collisions can cause particular harm.

Side-impact collisions can be deadly, especially for young children, because the protection in a car is mostly congregated at the front and back. Comparatively speaking, there is very little to shield a passenger from a side-impact crash, and it is a large reason why the deaths in a side-impact crash tend to be clustered statistically at the point of impact. Some vehicles do have more protection than others, such as side airbags or side impact bars, but it is still not the same level of protection that frontal and rear crumple zones and airbags provide.

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TX injury lawyerIn the early morning hours of September 11, a man was struck by a vehicle in the 1000 block of Parmer Lane, later dying in a Round Rock hospital. While the man was found in the road by police upon arrival, the driver who struck him did remain on the scene and cooperated with law enforcement. Nonetheless, a wrongful death suit may be pending by the victim’s family against the driver, which is a common result after such tragic accidents.

Wrongful Death in Texas

Any death in Texas that occurs due to the “wrongful act, neglect, [or] carelessness" of another person has the potential to be classified as wrongful. Of course, to do that, one must define neglect or carelessness, which is not always straightforward. Wrongful death cases are tried under a theory of negligence law, meaning that one must establish that the defendant was negligent in their actions in order for the plaintiff to recover.

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TX injury lawyerOn the night of August 10, a serious vehicle crash on San Antonio’s far west side killed one and sent four to the hospital with life-threatening and critical injuries. A young woman was arrested and later charged with intoxication manslaughter and assault, but there have also been unsubstantiated rumors that the family of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit against her. If you are unfortunate enough to lose a loved one in a car crash, it is important to understand your options in terms of seeking compensation for your loss.

Two Types of Wrongful Death

Under Texas law, there are two types of wrongful death lawsuits, though only one type may generally be brought in any one case. A standard wrongful death action, alleging negligence and seeking compensation for a defendant’s conduct in causing the death, can be brought only by certain specific family members of the deceased person - in all but the rarest exceptions, the spouse, parents, and children are the only ones who can bring suit. This does exclude siblings and other family members, which can be unfair, but the state’s rationale is that restricting the ability to bring suit to immediate family can help minimize opportunism (that is, bringing suit on behalf of a relative who played no role in that person’s life and whose passing did not truly injure the person).

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The sooner you call, the sooner we can build your case, secure evidence and get maximum compensation for your injuries.

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